Pa.’s Wolf, Chesapeake Bay guvs propose ‘Billion for the Bay’ federal funding initiative

Bird and marsh grass along the Chesapeake Bay. (Image via the Virginia Office of Natural Resources).

By Josh Kurtz

The governors of the six Chesapeake Bay states, along with the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the head of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, have written to the top leaders in Congress, seeking a new infusion of funding for Bay cleanup and related initiatives.

In a letter sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the state leaders called for a “bold” spending plan and cast extra funding for the Chesapeake Bay as good for the economy as well as for the environment.

“Our proposal is the Billion for the Bay Initiative: a significant and much needed infusion of new funds that will jumpstart the final phase of Bay restoration and put people to work building clean water infrastructure, including green infrastructure that will reduce stormwater and agricultural water pollution, the restoration of natural landscapes, and helping us adapt to the impacts of climate change,” the leaders wrote.

The letter was signed by Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D), Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Delaware Gov. John Carney (D), West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Virginia Del. David L. Bulova (D), who is chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

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The leaders pegged their funding request to the 2025 deadline for states to meet the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, federal pollution reduction goals designed to ensure clean water in the Bay and its tributaries.

“While we are making great progress and appreciate recent increases in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, the lion’s share of fiscal responsibilities for these efforts falls on our jurisdictions,” the governors, Bowser and Bulova wrote. “As you know, state and local government budgets have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it much more difficult to afford wastewater treatment plant upgrades, enhanced stormwater management systems, stream, forest, and wetlands restoration, and agricultural best management practices necessary to restore the Bay. Many individuals, including farmers and ratepayers who must share in the cost of these upgrades, are also struggling.”

But the state leaders also said the investment would create jobs and increase economic development throughout the Bay region, “from improved commercial and recreational fishing, reduced drinking water treatment costs, resilience to climate change, and improved property values and quality of life in the region.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker praised the region’s leaders for their letter to Congress.

“The Clean Water Blueprint is our last, best hope for clean water across the region,” he said. “For our children and grandchildren, we must demand success.”

Josh Kurtz is the founding editor and a reporter for Maryland Matters, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared